Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. ~Albert Schweitzer
March 8, 2011 — FLORIDA — Targeted at animal rights activists, Senate Bill 1246 seeks to make it a felony to photograph or video factory farms. Pursuit of the truth, however ugly, is a core virtue shared by the Animal Rights Movement and American Freedom of Speech. Jim Norman, a Republican senator from Tampa, just proposed a bill that could deny citizens this fundamental right. If you are angered by this attack on freedom, animals, and the humans that seek to protect them from cruelty, please sign the petition to help put a stop to it. — Global Animal
Stephanie Feldstein, Change.org
Undercover investigations have been critical in exposing the reality of factory farm cruelty, from the sadistic abuse of calves at Conklin Dairy in Ohio, to pigs going insane from extreme confinement in gestation crates at a Smithfield facility, to birds forced to spend their lives in battery cage squalor with living space smaller than an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
Industry groups have issued warnings and tips to agribusiness owners — not about how to spot potential animal abusers among their staff, but on how to identify potential activists before they can expose the mistreatment of animals. Now Florida is taking it one step further and has introduced legislation that would make it a first-degree felony to photograph or video factory farms.
SB 1246, filed by Sen. Jim Norman (R-Tampa), says that a person needs written consent of the owner before entering, photographing or recording at “a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted.” That not only knocks out undercover investigations, but even photographing a farm from the road.
Mercy for Animals, a group which has conducted several undercover investigations that led to criminal charges and civil settlements, calls this bill “an underhanded attempt to silence animal advocates while keeping consumers in the dark about the harsh realities of modern animal agriculture.”
Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, told the Florida Tribune, “Mr. Norman should be filing bills to throw the doors of animal producers wide open to show the public where their food comes from rather than criminalizing those who would show animal cruelty.”
Exposing these abuses does make a difference. Not only does it raise awareness to pave the way for legislation to stop factory farm cruelty, but studies show that it impacts people’s purchasing choices. And that’s exactly why Big Ag doesn’t want you seeing behind the curtain. They want you believe they’re raising “happy cows” and chickens a la Old MacDonald’s farm.
Free speech advocates aren’t thrilled about this bill either. Judy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press called the bill “flat-out unconstitutional not to mention stupid.”
Whether you’re worried about the treatment of animals, the safety of your food supply or protecting your constitutional rights, this is a dangerous piece of legislation. Tell Florida legislators to vote “no” on SB 1246.